Chris Zumani Zimba, Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Academician & Special Advisor to the NDC Consultant
The Liverpool and Egypt National Team football star was not on any ballot paper in the March 2018 presidential election in Egypt, but he emerged second against President Sisi- beating the actual state sponsored staged political rival by a big margin. Apart from being among the pioneers of the Arab Freedom Revolution in 2011, Egyptians have shown the world another new political style of how to oppose and reject democratic autocracy which is emerging across Africa. As you may know, many African democratically elected Presidents are systematically turning to autocracy by institutionally oppressing, silencing and eliminating all their main political rivals through either malicious political persecutions, false state engineered jail sentences, political assassinations or legally banishing lead opposition political parties through dictatorial legislations with the aim of contesting the next election with extreme easiness or alone. That is the dictatorial political style of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in Egypt.
In the last week of March, 2018, Egypt went to polls for three days in a presidential vote. But Sisi made sure it was in fact his own referendum- an imposed endorsement of one man by the masses instead of an open election for a president from many contenders. President Sisi sponsored and ran against one of his own supporters, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, as his main rival in one of the worst political drama called a presidential vote. To achieve this, three former high-ranking military leaders like him who had earlier announced that they would challenge Sisi were brutally arrested, maliciously jailed or politically forced out of the race through other repressive means. This prepared him to contest with practically no one-he was being voted into office as a true autocratic leader using a manipulated, oppressive, mockery and discredited democratic system.
But millions of Egyptians who understand and defend democracy still opposed and rejected their dictator in a different way. Instead of staying away from the presidential vote, they turned up to vote: not for Sisi or his false rival Moussa. Instead, they The Economist reported that more than 1 million Egyptians tampered with their ballots by crossing out both candidates while voting for Liverpool football star, Mohammad Salah who also stars the Egyptian national team. As such, although Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi still eventually won this presidential selection, the second candidate was not his false rival Moussa Mustafa Moussa, but the ‘new candidate’ who never knew about it or contested the election, the football star Mo Salah. And the final results were Abdel Fattah al-Sisi got 92%, Mo Salah got 5% while Moussa Mustafa Moussa got 3%. Although all these votes for Mo Sarah were treated as spoiled ballots and never counted, they still made a huge statement of political protest among millions of Egyptians, an indication that Sisi is broadly opposed and rejected as a dictator.
The Cairo political experience is what is likely to happen in Lusaka-Zambia in the near future to president Lungu who is walking the same footsteps of dictator Sisi of Egypt, Joseph Kabila of DR Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda or Boutaflika of Algeria. In Zambia, these religious citizens of this SADC state may not resort to vote for Fashion Sakala, Patson Daka, Kennedy Mweene or Rainfold Kalaba if Lungu eliminates rival presidential candidates like HH, CK or Fred M’membe in the race, they may opt not to vote for him too so that he never sees the 50% plus 1 vote at any point or they may vote for Bishop Joe Imakando, Esther Phiri or Mampi instead of Innonge Wina, Dora Siliya, Given Lubinda or Esther Lungu herself. In other words, the electoral experience of opposing and shaming dictator Sisi in Egypt by massively voting for their football star who was not on the ballot must stand as an important free political lesson for autocrat Lungu in Zambia. People who understand democracy cannot accept authoritarianism or its oppressive equivalent.